Most sports teams huddle. Football teams huddle after every play. My basketball team huddles in the locker room, right before we take the floor for the pre-game warm up.
We all put our hands together; the coach says “1-2-3”, and then in unison the players say something like “Defense” or “Family” or “Patriots”. It is usually a very unifying moment as the team prepares for battle.
The other night the Francis Marion University Patriots took their home floor against Peach Belt Conference rival Augusta. Right before the game, as my team broke from the traditional huddle, they yelled, “Have Fun”.
Now I like to have fun as much as the next guy and I want my players to have fun playing the game of basketball, but that exclamation moments before one of the most important games of the year surprised me.
As it turned out, we didn’t have a lot of fun in the first half against the Jaguars as we missed 19 of our first 20 shots. We made a game of it in the second half but the damage was done and the visiting team came away with an 81-76 victory.
Do you think Patton’s profanity laced speech to the Third Army prior to D-Day in 1944 included the words “Have Fun”?
Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez made no mention of fun as he exclaimed “Burn the ships!” and gave his men no option but to press on in their conquest of Mexico in 1519.
I’m not comparing a basketball game to war, but there is an element of battle in every athletic competition. Sometimes you have to roll your sleeves up, get dirty in the trenches, sacrifice for all that is dear to you.
I have a framed cross-stitch in my office which states “Nothing we ever really want is easy.” I am not sure we are effectively teaching or remembering this life-lesson.
There was a time when this country embraced sacrifice. Remember “Rosie the Riveter” or the rationing of World War II? Those were not especially fun times but they were unifying times.
And the fun of victory was made sweeter by the sacrifice. The sweat and toil comes first; then can come the fun.
Our country needs that reminder now, and maybe I’ll mention it to my team today as we take on Flagler College down in St. Augustine, Florida. Let’s work together, play hard and play smart, and come away with a big road victory.
Now that will be fun!
There has been a lot of talk recently about the porous southern border of our country. Donald Trump wants to build a wall to help the situation.
If he wants to see porous, I can show him porous. Just come to Florence and watch my Francis Marion University men’s basketball team play defense.
In our last four games we have given up 120, 92, 80, and 83 points respectively, but have won three out of those four. Our record stands at 10-2 overall and 6-1 in the tough Peach Belt Conference.
On average the Patriots give up 86 points a game. When an opposing player drives to the basket we look like Manolete, the famous Spanish bullfighter, shouting “Ole” as the bull charges past.
We are not alone in our defensive ineptness. The Golden State Warriors of the NBA scored 51 points in the first quarter alone against the Denver Nuggets the other night.
The Philadelphia 76ers put up 83 in the first half against Minnesota on that same date, and a night later the Warriors beat the Pelicans, 147-140.
When the Oklahoma Thunder lost to the Atlanta Hawks, 142-126, OKC Coach Billy Donovan said, “What did we score, 126? That should be good enough for us to win.”
I hear you Billy, but my Patriots have averaged over 100 points a game since Christmas and I am still nursing an ulcer because the games have been so close.
It’s just a sign of the times. Defense is tough, and our society is now geared toward making things easier.
But easier is not necessarily better. I still believe defense wins championships.
We play Georgia Southwestern this afternoon on our campus at 3:30 p.m. When we traveled to Americus before the holidays we beat them in a very spirited contest, 90-85.
But we gave up 57 points in the second half of that game. It is going to be a monumental challenge for us to hold the talented Hurricanes to under 100 points.
I am not sure what our defensive game plan should be. Do you think the NCAA would let me build a wall?